Railroad Crossing Safety at Question After Flashing Lights are Removed


April 30, 2008

By: Edward Hale-Mr.Thrifty Correspondent

The Ohi-Rail Corporation, a Minerva-based railroad company, located at 700 Murray Ave., Minerva, had applied to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio on May 18, 2007, to eliminate flashing lights at three crossings in the Amsterdam, and Bergholz area.

PUCO approved the request on Nov. 20, 2007, due to limited train traffic and deterioration of signal lights that we currently installed.  PUCO proposed the downgrades to begin with the installment of two crossbuck signs, one for each highway approach at each crossing, in accordance with the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices.

The three railroad crossings were replaced with the “standard, old-fashioned crossbuck signs,” shinny new signs mounted on four-by-four wooden posts.

The question and concern is why the signs were not replaced with the updated “Buckeye Crossbuck” signs that are reflective read and white.  The Buckeye Crossbuck provides stronger visual signal among the measured crossbucks at night and during the daytime.  However, mystery is why the crossings were not simply kept up in the first place or replaced the existing equipment with new, working lights and gates when one of these crossings is located on State Route 43, Amsterdam.

Vicky Moore, from the Angels on Track Foundation said, “My only concern is that a crossbuck, no matter Buckeye or standard, is only a sign and signs don’t protect you or warn you of an approaching train.  This is particularly dangerous when you can’t see down the tracks, because of sight obstructions and the crossing is not gated.  What happened at these three crossings was a dangerous situation where the state took “backward” steps going from active warning to a passive sign, a dangerous precedence.”

“What is going to stop other railroads from doing the same?  Local officials were too quick to approve, this, without consideration of the impact on safety.  It’s possible the number of actual train movements were under-reported.  The best protection is gates and no action should ever be taken to downgrade a crossing other than to completely close a crossing,” Moore said.

An in-depth investigation into OHRC crossings sound that crossings in both Carroll County and Jefferson County from Minerva to Amsterdam have the Buckeye Crossing signs, but not the three crossings where the deteriorating lights were removed.  Also in the investigation, it was found that OHRC had a complaint filed against them last year from a Carrollton school bus driver, reporting obstructed grade crossings with trees and vegetation hindering the view at several of their crossings.  OHRC has also derailed their locomotives several times as well.

The OHRC office in Steubenville was contacted and referred any questions to Powell Felix, general manager of Ohi-Rail Corp.

According to a phone conversation on March 28, Felix stated that “OHRC only operates trains a few times a year on the crossings and that the crossings do have flaggers to stop any and all vehicle traffic while the train crosses.”

He went on to say that “the Buckeye Crossing signs are more noticeable; however, the crossing signs were replaced with the standard signs due to federal regulations and that the Buckeye signs are being phased out.”

Felix believes there was no point in replacing the crossings with lights and gates since they are only used a few times per year.

Felix believes that instead of replacing the lights and gates at those three crossings, it would be more economical and sensible to place lights and gates at crossings that would have more train traffic than those in the Amsterdam/Bergholz area.


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